Rare Catch off Rocky Point, Palos Verdes

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In a year when Southern California was treated to some of the best fishing seen in recent years, it only seemed fitting that 2014 ended with an interesting catch.

This unusual golden fish was speared by Todd Bergenbring off of Rocky Point in Palos Verdes at an approximate depth of 20 feet. Excited by his potentially rare catch, Mr. Bergenbring brought the fish to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Los Alamitos office on Dec. 29 for identification by CDFW staff. After taking some measurements and snapping some photos, CDFW scientists initially identified the mystery fish as a Pacific dog snapper (Lutjanus novemfasciatus); however, the fish was later identified as a Colorado snapper (Lutjanus colorado).

While this species ranges from Morro Bay, California to Panama in Central America, it is rarely seen off California. There are no recorded catches of Colorado snapper in the past 34 years of recreational catch data compiled by either the California Recreational Fisheries Survey or the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey.

Colorado snapper can grow to a total length of nearly 36 in. and a weight of around 20 lbs. The fish that was brought in for identification measured 34 in. long and weighed in at 20 lbs. Unfortunately, since Colorado snapper is an unusual catch  – it’s not commonly found in California waters – the fish is not eligible for a State diving record.

While it is difficult to speculate on the exact reason the snapper ended up off Palos Verdes, it is most likely the result of the fish following the tropical ocean currents that have been flowing through Southern California waters since last summer. Local water temperatures were above average throughout the second half of 2014 due to the influx of tropical currents. The same time period saw an increase in the variety of pelagic species (yellowtail, bonito, wahoo, tunas) caught by recreational anglers. Greater numbers of pelagic fish were caught as well, and catches were recorded later in the season than during the past few years.

Editor’s Note: The article was updated on 5/6/2016 to correct the species identification and related information.

post by Ryan Denton, CDFW Environmental Scientist  ♦  CDFW photo of snapper on CDFW measuring board by R. Denton, all other photos courtesy T. Bergenbring

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